PERIOD: Late Period, 26th -30th Dynasty, 646 – 343 BC.
SIZE: Height 13 cm
PRICE: 1,200 Euros.
PROVENANCE: From a private collection. Asia.
This ushabti figurine is depicted as a worker holding two hoes for work in the fields of Osiris in the afterlife. He is wearing a tripartite wig which falls down between the shoulders. He has an Osiris-type beard which ends in a tight forward curl. Only the hands, crossed over the chest and holding the already-mentioned agricultural implements, emerge from the mummiform shroud covering the entire body.
There are two blocks of hieroglyphs in a T-form on the body: one block horizontal and the other vertically below this. The horizontal block continues around the back of the figure where there is no inscription. The piece stands on a small base which elevates it.
The horizontal inscription reads: "Illuminate the Osiris of the priest of (the goddess) Smentet, Padiusir". The vertical text: "Born of the lady Irbinat, of the just voice."
The name Padiusir was hellenized as Petosiris. In the case of this ushabti he was a priest of the goddess Smentet (not very well known, but associated with Isis and Osiris) and priest of the sanctuary of Ptah-Un (one of the seven principal forms of Ptah, patron of Memphis). Irbinat is the name of the mother of Padiusir. In this late period it was usual to make reference to the name of the mother in place of that of the father.
Ushabti were made from one original bi-valve mold. Once the two pieces were joined and the rough edges removed, and while the material was still moist, the details of the image were retouched and the columns were marked on which the hieroglyphs would be incised. This meant that each ushabti was unique, even though they had come from the same mold.
The material used for the creation of this ushabti is faience, composed of fine sand cemented with sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate extracted from natron. Fired at 950 degrees C, the mixture gives an enamel-like finish with the carbonates forming a vitreous surface. It was a simple procedure and therefore not costly. The green and blue tones were achieved by the addition of a few grams of copper oxide extracted from malachite or azurite. The red tones were achieved with iron oxide, the intense blues with cobalt, the black by mixing iron oxide and magnesium oxide with water. All that was needed was to paint the chosen details in the selected colour with a brush before the firing.
Ushabtis, a term which in Ancient Egypt means "answerers", were figures that directly represented the deceased person. They appeared in the Middle Kingdom and their use became popular in the New Kingdom. They formed part of the grave goods. Chapter VI of the Book of the Dead was often inscribed on the figurine, or a simpler version with the name and title of the deceased. The use of these funerary figures allowed the owner to enjoy the afterlife as the ushabtis acted as a form of worker substitute for the owner in the fields of Aaru, the Egyptian paradise, as the Egyptians believed that the spirits of these figurines would work for them and thus achieve their sustenance in the afterlife. There were 365 ushabtis placed among the grave goods, one for each day of the year. Along with these there might be 36 overseers who would be in charge of each of the workgroups made up of 10 workers, and so avoid any possibility of rebellion in the ranks. These figurines could be found in a special wooden box or might be placed in an informal grouping in a place near the sarcophagus. In the Late Period these figurines were produced en masse. The number grew and their use became more frequent in the graves in that period.